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Gift helps to safeguard views from state park

Real estate firm donates 250 acres

HOWARD TOWNSHIP -- A Harrisburg real estate company has donated conservation easements on 250 acres adjacent to the Bald Eagle State Park to the state to protect the views from the park.

The easements were donated by Appalachian Land & Conservation Services LLC to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. They are meant to ensure that, no matter who owns the land, it cannot be developed to a point it disrupts the woodland setting and the view from Sayers Lake, the park's centerpiece attraction.

"It's a generous gift that protects our viewshed to one of our state parks," DCNR press secretary Chris Novak said. "And it didn't cost us anything."

The protected land involves almost three miles of frontage on the 6,000-acre park and is almost all of the remaining privately owned land sandwiched between the park and the 2,500-acre State Game Lands No. 323, which runs along Bald Eagle Mountain.

Considering the land is not regulated by zoning laws -- meaning anything could have been built there -- and that such scenic land is increasingly in demand, DCNR was glad to receive the easements.

"It protects the view from Bald Eagle State Park," Novak said.

"You will look out and see forested land and trees."

The donation marks the first time the DCNR has accepted such a gift, Novak said.

The easements will allow only a handful of homes to be built on those 250 acres if they are sold in the future, not sprawling developments that would threaten the view from Bald Eagle. The acreage is divided into four parcels and, according to the easements, only one home can sit on each of the parcels.

"Bald Eagle State Park is a special place," said Appalachian CEO Josh First, a State College native. "Preserving places like this as cultural touchstones is important. We will make a good profit when we sell these lands, not a killing. And a good profit is good enough.

"Smart growth development and donating conservation easements make good business sense. When conservation pays, it creates incentives to do the right thing."

First said there is a strong market for such protected rural lands.

People want to build homes in woodland settings and want the peace of mind in knowing the land around them cannot be "carved up," he said.

Appalachian Land & Conservation Services' mission is "to advance conservation goals and values by protecting working landscapes and environmental quality through the use of private markets and innovative real estate transactions," according to a news release.

Those four easement-protected parcels are available for sale, listed by WarMark Realty.

Pete Bosak can be reached at 235-3928.